UNITED NATIONS: Thirty-four militant groups from around the world had reportedly pledged allegiance to the militant Islamic State (IS) group as of mid-December and that number would only grow this year, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a report on Friday.

Mr Ban said that IS posed “an unprecedented threat”, because of its ability to persuade groups from countries like the Philippines, Pakistan, Libya and Nigeria to pledge their allegiance.

He said UN member states should also prepare for an increase in attacks by IS-associated groups travelling to other countries to launch attacks and develop networks.

Recent expansion of the group’s sphere of influence worries Ban Ki-moon
“The recent expansion of the ISIL (IS) sphere of influence across west and north Africa, the Middle East and south and southeast Asia demonstrates the speed and scale at which the gravity of the threat has evolved in just 18 months,” he said.

Adding to the threat, IS was “the world’s wealthiest terrorist organisation,” Mr Ban said, citing estimates that the group generated $400-$500 million from oil and oil products last year, despite an embargo.

According to the UN mission in Iraq, cash taken from bank branches located in provinces under IS control totalled $1 billion. The mission also estimates that a tax on trucks entering IS-controlled territory generates nearly $1bn a year, he said.

The militant group captured large swathes of Iraq and Syria less than two years ago and despite international efforts to oust them IS continues to maintain its presence in both countries and is expanding to other regions, according to Mr Ban.